Did oral tradition align Jesus' chronology with John's imprisonment? I hadn't particularly considered this question in detail before today, but I was just making notes while re-reading my kindle highlights of Bauckham's chapter, John for Readers of Mark, in the so far excellent The Gospel for all Christians. At any rate, here is the highlighted excerpt, followed by my reflection:
"It is not very likely that readers/hearers of the Fourth Gospel would be expected to know from oral Gospel traditions that Jesus' Galilean ministry followed the imprisonment of John. The chronological sequence in Mark 1:14 (followed by Matt.4:12, but not by Luke 4:14 is more likely to be Markan than traditional."
To which, I began musing:
If he means [that John's readers' knowledge of this could be expected to come] 'less likely from tradition than from Mark' I agree of course, but [if he means this detail itself was] straight up "unlikely" [to be pre-Markan, then, why]?
Why? Because it's too particular? As opposed to what? We can't declare it likely, but if we can imagine a scenario where word spread simultaneously then it's possible these memories were linked. Again, I'm not saying it's "likely" but I'm not convinced that it's necessarily "unlikely".
On second thought...
What other explanation do we have for the fact that John and Jesus became linked in the first place? I suppose the traditional answer is that the apostles were privy to an early connection, but what about the population at large?
The Gospels not only align Jesus' Galilean ministry with John's imprisonment, they also portray JtB as a frequent talking point of Jesus' public ministry both during and after that time. Suddenly, it seems to me that John effectively graced Jesus with a two stage martyrdom, and (since Jesus' public position as a supporter of John obviously could *only* have come out in Galilee *during* his Galikean ministry) it appears that support very likely was a key part of how Jesus built up such notoriety so quickly, during John's imprisonment, in the territory of the Herod who imprisoned him.
Not to be circular, this thesis is conditional on historicity of the alignment. IFF the Gospels are accurate in reporting that Jesus' Galilean ministry began after John was imprisoned, THEN it looks like early memories of Jesus' ministry very well could have been tied to that time period by anyone who lived through those days and heard Jesus speak about John.
Two more notes, since I decided to blog this...
First, as I said Monday, this is starting to feel apologetic (which really isn't my thing) but my interest is to confirm whether things like this alignment are actually solid enough to build on. Is there something more substantial than merely narrative sequence? As I sought to ask in the past, are sequenced events also purported to be contingent upon one another? Or, in this case, is the purported alignment plausible in reconstructions of memory, as well as history?
Second, I realize these thoughts are fresh, that they lack rigor, and that my understanding of memory theory has a long way to grow. But this is what I can do. New thoughts, free to plunder. If they're worth anything, I'll be glad to nudge the professionals with a key idea (on my best days, perhaps). If not, I'm leaving a record for myself to track later. And if this inspires any other non-scholars to think more about Jesus' connections to John and how that impacted people in Galilee and Judea, then welcome to the party!
We learn by doing. We think more when reading, and we think more rigorously when we try writing with care. Oh, yeah, and hey... This is still just a blog.
One I hope you're enjoying.